Official visit buzz on J.T. Tuimoloau, top 2022 Ohio State offensive targets

Aritcle written by:Jeremy BirminghamJeremy Birmingham

Birm

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Stay in touch or be left out because Ohio State recruiting is a 24-hour, seven-day-per-week obsession. What’s the latest news as the Buckeyes build for the future? Get that and more Sunday through Thursday on Lettermen Row. Today we’re looking at the official visits that took place for the Buckeyes over the third weekend in June.

Dallan Hayden will head home, evaluate options ahead of decision

There’s been a feeling of inevitability about the recruitment of Dallan Hayden for the last few months, but his visit a week ago to Notre Dame threw a little wrench into that. The country’s No. 24-ranked tailback, who has been at the top of the board for the Buckeyes for a while now, left South Bend feeling way better about the Irish than anyone had expected.

So for Ohio State, getting him on campus this weekend was pretty good news, especially timing-wise. The Buckeyes got an immediate chance at a retort — and that is certainly key in dimming the post-Notre Dame glow.

Hayden left the Buckeyes campus on Sunday morning and told Lettermen Row the trip went as well as could be expected.

“The visit has been awesome,” Hayden said. “It’s a great campus. They have a great staff, a great head coach and position coach. I can see why they are very successful at Ohio State.”

Now we’ll wait and see if the Buckeyes can be successful in this recruiting battle. Notre Dame showcased its prestigious academic programs and worked to use the depth Tony Alford has at running back against Ohio State. The Buckeyes focus doesn’t change much from player-to-player, because the program believes it provides the best college experience with its blend of football success, academics, platform building and personal development. Those are all things that the 5-foot-11, 195-pound Hayden will have to take into consideration as he heads back home to Memphis.

The expectation from here is this: Hayden and his family will get home, buckle down and go into decision mode. Ohio State, Notre Dame and Illinois all received official visits. The belief is that this comes down to the Buckeyes and Irish.

Ohio State had been the leader here for a while. Notre Dame gave Hayden a lot to think about. The final answer could come at any time.

Ohio State puts itself firmly into the recruitment of Kojo Antwi

Whereas the Buckeyes were in the lead position for Dallan Hayden, Ohio State was trailing in the pursuit of Georgia 4-star wide receiver Kojo Antwi. Georgia, Alabama and Texas A&M have all been connected to the nation’s No. 16-ranked receiver, but Brian Hartline has been working tirelessly to make sure the 6-foot-1, 185-pound athlete from Lambert (Suwanee, Ga.) High School gave the Buckeyes a real look.

That inspection started Friday evening and is ongoing through Sunday morning. Antwi won’t leave town until nearly 6 p.m. on Father’s Day, so the visit is ongoing at publish time. In talking to sources around the Buckeyes program, there’s a sense that things have gone very well to this point. Antwi has been hosted by former 5-star receiver prospect Emeka Egbuka, a serious student of football and academics, and that’s the message being sent to Antwi and his family. There is a very real concern about education and growth beyond football in his family, so Egbuka is a good person to get to know since his father originally wanted him to attend Stanford. The Buckeyes have been trying to deliver the message that who shares the locker room together matters.

This is one area that Ohio State truly believes it can prove to be the better of Georgia, Alabama and Texas A&M.

It’s been a great weekend for the Buckeyes in this recruitment so far. Will it be enough for Antwi’s family to give a green light about going away for school? It does help that he has family in Cincinnati. There’s a July 5 decision date for this top receiver target, and Ohio State is absolutely in the battle.

Buckeyes swing hard for J.T. Tuimoloau

Last and certainly not least is the recruitment of J.T. Tuimoloau. The country’s No. 1-ranked 2021 prospect arrived Thursday night to a lot of fanfare, met by the entire Ohio State coaching staff at the airport. The Buckeyes coaches donned Polynesian-inspired duds and leis around their necks. It’s a departure from the norm for Ohio State, which doesn’t surrender to the pomp and circumstance in the recruiting world often. But it underscored immediately the importance of Tuimoloau.

The focus of this trip from the Buckeyes point of view was development: From Larry Johnson and what he can do on the field to what the city of Columbus and recent name, image and likeness legislation will do for Tuimoloau off of it. Ohio State had its annual job fair on Friday night, showing the 6-foot-5, 275-pound defensive end just a sample of the connections that the Buckeyes have to the biggest and most lucrative businesses in Ohio and around the Midwest.

Outside the welcome at the airport, the goal for the Buckeyes has been to show Tuimoloau substance, not style. The effort was made to highlight the relationships he’s already grown with Ohio State and to make sure he meets the people who will help him maximize his three years at Ohio State. It’s about Larry Johnson’s role in his on-field development and the commitment the famed position coach gives to him and his family for the next 20 years as well.

Bottom line? Things have gone very well for Ohio State. It’s also fair to believe the Buckeyes would have had to really botch something for things to go poorly. The plan hasn’t changed for J.T. Tuimoloau: He’s leaving Columbus on Sunday afternoon and heading to Oregon. He’ll spend his time with the Ducks and then get to Alabama next weekend for his final official visit.

Though Nick Saban will certainly be with Tuimoloau a lot, it’s worth noting the contrast between Ohio State and Alabama’s weekends with the 5-star. The Buckeyes had four 2022 official visitors — one of them, C.J. Hicks, is already committed. The Crimson Tide will host nine official visits and a number of key prospects in the 2022 and 2023 classes as well. Again, it’s unlikely to distract Nick Saban from his mission of landing Tuimoloau, but how it impacts the rest of the Alabama staff and how they’re forced to spend their time is interesting at least.

Ohio State took its swing and put all the cards on the table. There’s a couple of big visits left but the Buckeyes like their hand.

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